Court Square of Charlottesville
Buildings within the historic Court Square include 300 Court Square, which is the site of the Eagle Tavern, a simple wooden frame building which stood there in 1791. The brick replacement, which visitors can see today, provided food and lodging on court days, as well as public dances and victory celebrations within its spacious parlor. The building also was used as the headquarters of the Federal occupying forces after the Civil War. Operating as a hotel until the 1960’s, it is now office space.
Adjacent to “0” Court Square and 6th Street buildings visitors can see the slave block, where auctions of slaves took place. The influence of Jefferson’s design for the University of Virginia buildings nearby may have influenced the design of building #0, when it was built in the 1820’s. Storehouses for merchants, as well as a small town library, a whiskey dealer and a Swiss watchmaker recruited by Jefferson were all located along 6th St.
The Swan Tavern was located at 300 Park Street, where a brick townhouse now stands. The tavern was made famous Jack Jouett, whose father owned The Swan. In 1781, Jefferson and Virginia’s government quit Richmond under threat of capture by the British, and reconvened in Charlottesville. Jouett rode through the night on back roads from Louisa County to warn Governor Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee and other members of the General Assembly of the approach of British forces under the command of Colonel Banastre Tarleton. Eluding capture, most legislators fled to safety in Staunton. Tarleton’s men destroyed some court records and military stores, but spared the town from destruction.
The building once housing the Town Hall, and later the Levy Opera House, is located at 350 Park Street. This building was built by private investors to serve as an auditorium for opera singers, musicians, performers, dancers and instrumentalists. In 1888, Jefferson Monroe Levy, owner of Monticello, remodeled the hall into a “modern” opera house, able to seat 800 patrons. Today it serves as office space.
All of these sites can be explored in more detail during a walking tours offered by the Albemarle Historical Society (April-October). Cost is $5/person. Tickets can be purchased at www.albemarlehistory.org or at the start of the tour. For tour times and details contact the Historical Society at (434) 296-1492 or visit the website www.albemarlehistory.org